Product Designer at Contra


AlexBrown (Product Designer at Contra)

Alex Brown is a product designer creating tools that enable and empower the independent workforce.

Indianapolis, United States • June 23, 2021

What led you into design?

Creativity has followed me all of my life–I was always drawing or taking photos and throwing them into Photoshop. In high school, I did an independent art class with a teacher who further pushed me to explore creativity by allowing me to choose my projects and mediums 🎨

After a miserable first semester of pre-nursing classes, I decided that I wasn’t meant to pursue the “safe” career. I took a career assessment test and the field of design was #1 on the list. 

 I was fortunate to attend an excellent design program at the Herron School of Art + Design that focused on user experience, and fell in love with the research portion of it. The main reason I wanted to be a nurse was to help people. Coming full circle, it is so cool that as a product designer, I am directly helping make a bigger impact on the world, it just looks a little different 🌎

What does a typical day look like?

My day begins around 7:00a with outside time on a walk with my dog, Koda. After, I’ve been trying to incorporate more movement like stretching or yoga before breakfast to wake myself up and allow for some quiet time in the morning. 

After breakfast, my husband will usually go on a coffee run while I get ready for the day to bring me back my decaf flat white, because this designer here has a caffeine intolerance 🙃

My work day begins around 9:00a. Since the rest of my team is a few timezones behind, it’s pretty quiet and I’m able to set my to-dos and start working before everyone hops on. 

I’m very grateful that Contra's meeting schedule is very light, and most of my day is spent actually designing. I become pretty enthralled with what I’m doing, so my signal for break has been my stomach growling when it’s time for lunch. This is usually when I’ll sit outside and eat or go on another walk with the pup before my day continues on.

I break for my workout at 4:15p 💪 This is a scheduled class which has been extremely helpful in allowing me to take a rest and pull away from my screen for a while. Once I return home, I take a look at whatever needs finished up with fresh eyes. 

Evenings are spent cooking dinner with my husband, evening walks, and cozying in to a movie or show. 

What's your workstation setup?

I am currently in the process of moving, so my “typical” work station is pretty disassembled. However, in true Contra fashion, this week my office is on the beach in South Carolina 🌊💛

Where do you go to get inspired?

I surround myself with brilliant designers whose work I admire and can learn from. From social media to my team to our amazing users on Contra, I really enjoy looking at others’ work, learning about their backgrounds, and understanding their processes. Community is such a driving force in the future of work. 

Travel is also a huge source of inspiration for me. We are creating a product that empowers and enables people to leave the traditional 9-5 workforce and combine their passions with their profession. When I am able to take my work with me wherever I go (favorites include 🏝 or 🏔) it sparks the greatest inspiration to help allow others to do the same.

What product have you recently seen that made you think this is great design?

The Tezza app. Photography is a fun side project, and this app provides super fun photo/video features like stop motion, overlays, glitter, etc. Definitely deserves a chef’s kiss ❤️

What pieces of work are you most proud of?

I am very proud of most pieces that I worked on as an independent. Primarily because I acted as account executive, product manager, designer, copywriter, and engineer. Those projects pushed me to grow in tremendous ways. 

At Contra, I am so proud of the work I have contributed to Payments 🤑 (…coming soon…👀). This is a feature that I would have benefited greatly from during my independent career and this provided a lot of inspiration and direction for it.

What design challenges do you face at your company?

At Contra, we are building a central tool that allows independents to join the movement of flexible work. Our feature list seems to be ever growing, which can be overwhelming sometimes, but I couldn’t be more excited to be a part in this passionate project that just happens to be my job 👩‍💻

What music do you listen to while designing?

Any advice for ambitious designers?

I truly believe that in order to grow, you need to put yourself outside your comfort zone. I knew I wanted to be an independent once I graduated college, but was terrified about taking on the risks, the unknowns, the n*tworking, putting myself out there, etc. 

Being independent allowed me to explore and learn various aspects of design, work with small business, marketing and application agencies, understand the value of flexible and remote work, learn how to run a business, and have an appreciation for a non-traditional career. 

The path you’re on is exactly where you’re meant to be. I was hesitant when I first thought about transitioning to a full-time role since I had such a passion for flexible work, but again, I wanted to push myself outside of where I was comfortable. 

Now, I help design the future of independent work and have the opportunity to build and design tools for users I completely empathize with and understand. It’s crazy to think that if I had said “no” after graduation, that I wouldn’t be where I am today.

Anything you want to promote or plug?

Contra’s Statement of Independence Report. Our survey with 10,000+ independents about how the workforce is changing 🚀 An example of the driving force behind the passionate team here at Contra.